Going Vegan From Vegetarian
Are You Thinking Of Going Vegan?
If you have nutritional concerns, then please scroll down to see where you can get all of your nutrients on a vegan diet...yes, it is totally possible!
Going Vegan: My Journey
I almost started out with the plan of going vegan from the womb. I guess it was written in my DNA.
I have never ate chicken or fish. Well, that's a lie. Up until I was three years old, I ate chicken. But one day at McDonald's I was eating my chicken McNuggets and I asked my mom what they were made of…she told me they were made of chicken…I said, "Like the animal chicken?"
She confirmed my worst fear and I never ate chicken again. (If we had the Internet in those days, and I had Googled images for chicken McNuggets, I think I would have been turned off of all meat completely - but we didn't.)
Ground beef was the next to go. While other kids were being forced to finish their vegetables, my parents would make me sit at the table until I finished my beef. I just didn't like the taste, smell, or texture of beef. I remember actually throwing my meat back up after trying to eat it. I stopped eating hamburgers, steak, and other forms of beef around 12 years old.
Ribs were the next ago. My uncle made the best ribs ever, so it took me a while to let those go. At about 14, I stopped eating ribs.
During that time, I started looking at ingredients more carefully and became aware of all the fish and meat products that were in some of my favorite foods, and I also stopped eating anything that had an ingredient of meat or fish.
Bacon was the last of actually meat to go. I liked bacon on my perogies, and that is the only time that I would eat it. Around age of 20, I decided to let go of the bacon.
I still ate eggs, but sometimes they would make me sick. It wasn't the thought of what they were, it was just the taste. I've never liked meaty tastes (except for the ribs, but I believe that had more to do with the sauce!) When I turned 31, I stopped eating eggs.
Now it is December 2012 and in January (I turn 35 on January 5) I am giving up milk and milk products and going vegan. I say "giving up" because I do enjoy cream and cheese. In fact, cheeses have been an everyday staple of my diet since I was a kid. But over the years, I've had my issues with milk and milk products, and I fully believe it is a healthier way to go for me.
I'm ready to switch from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet. (Oh, my Italian mother-in-law is going to be happy!)
I want to give a quick overview about what I learned about staying healthy on the vegan diet.
Vegan Protein Sources
1/2 Cup Kidney Beans
1/2 Cup Soybeans
1/4 Cup Almonds
1/4 Cup Peanuts
1/2 Cup Brown Rice
1/2 Cup Brocolli
1 Baked Potato
1/2 Cup Pasta
Vegan Protein: How Do You Get Protein Without Meat?
I think it's funny that the first thing people ask about is protein. We have been duped into believing that the only protein out there is in animal sources.
In fact, over 30 years ago nutrition researchers said that plant foods could provide adequate protein; yet, the majority of people believe that it only comes from animal products. (That is the beauty of marketing and good old fashioned gossip.)
We need about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weight 160, then you need about 64 grams of protein per day.
If you are going vegan, then there are many foods that are good protein sources; for example, legumes are especially rich in protein. This is also why soymilk and tofu and soybeans are such a big parts of vegan diets; they contain a high amount of protein. Grains and nuts also have protein.
This isn't to say the vegan diet cannot fall short when it comes to protein. As I said, it is important to eat a balanced diet of plants, beans, grains, nuts.
It is important to note that soymilk has more protein than other nut milks. So if you enjoy almond milk or rice milk, include soymilk in your diet as well.
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Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12
B12 Fortified Food: Such as soymilk or veggie meat
25 to 100 Micrograms
1000 Micrograms two times a week
Vitamin B12: Where To Get It On a Vegan Diet
Vitamin B12 is important. It helps produce a protective sheath around nerve fibers and is important with the maintenance of red blood cells in nerve cells. Around 2.4 micrograms is a recommended dosage for people over 14 years old whether they are going vegan or not.
Vegans will not find vitamin B12 in plant sources. Animal products are a high source of vitamin B12. Red meat, seafood and dairy are all good sources of vitamin B12, while fruits, vegetables and grains are low sources of vitamin B12.
Plants have no need for this vitamin so they don't contain it, although they can be contaminated with it, but it is an inactive form.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 is not pretty. It includes tingling in the feet and hands (neurological damage). In addition, when vitamin B12 levels drop, amino acid homocysteine rises and that may damage nerve tissue and blood vessels, which can increase heart disease and stroke.
Therefore, if you are going vegan, it is obviously important to take a supplement of vitamin B12. The supplement needs to be chewable or in a form that dissolves underneath a ton. Swallowing the pill doesn't allow the B12 to be absorbed well.
Vegan Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium Content in Milligrams
Firm Tofu With Calcium Sulfate
Soymilk Fortified 1 Cup
Dried Figs 1 Cup
This is another one of those things that many people believe: Milk is the only source of calcium and going vegan will result in a major deficiency of calcium. Not true. Someone on a vegan diet will have no problem getting their recommended calcium intake.
Without a doubt, calcium is important to our health. It is important to our bones and future of our bones. The recommended amount, for men and women 18 years to 51, is 1,000 milligrams a day. Over 50 is about 1,200 milligrams.
Some vegetables, like leafy green vegetables such as spinach or rhubarb, contain a high level of calcium but also contain oxalates that bind calcium (hold on to it) and make it unavailable to the body. This means that low oxalate vegetables are better for absorbing calcium.
Low oxalate vegetables include broccoli, turnip greens and kale. Butternut squash is also a low oxalate vegetable that contains calcium.
To help get your daily amount of calcium choose calcium fortified foods, or if you think you can't make it up to your diet than take a supplement. However, you should be able to make it up in your vegan diet.
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Vegan Sources of Iron
Amount in Milligrams
1 Cup Tomato Juice
6 Ounces of Prune Juice
1/2 Cup Cooked Kidney Beans
1/2 Cooked Soybeans
1/4 Cup Almonds
1 Ounce Dark Chocolate!
Iron In Vegan Diets
This is something that I personally had problems with in my vegetarian diet. Especially during my menstrual cycle. So this was something that I definitely needed to learn about a vegan diet. Turns out that I just need to increase some natural sources of food, because I do tend to eat a lot of the food in the box on the right.
If you don't think that you could eat enough iron on a vegan diet, then take a supplment. Iron is important to our bodies. It helps with immune activity, transports oxygen in the blood to every part of the body, protects against free radicals, produces energy, and much more.
Iron deficiency, whether it happens in meat eaters or vegans or vegetarians, is usually treated with an iron supplement - not meat. (Good news for people on a vegan diet who think they need to include meat again for iron intake.)
Amounts of Iron Needed
- Males between the age of 14 to 18 need about 11 mg per day.
- Females between the ages of 14 to 18 need about 15 mg per day.
- Males between the age of 19 to 100 need about 8 mg of iron per day.
- Females from 19 to 50 years old need about 18 mg of iron per day, and over 50 the need about 8 mg per day.
- The number is significantly higher for pregnant women, coming in about 27 mg per day. Lactating women need about 9 mg per day. If you are going vegan and you are pregnant, make sure you take an iron supplement.
Learn More About Going Vegan
All Other Nutrients On a Vegan Diet
As far as I know, all other nutrients can be found by eaten a balanced vegan diet. This means eating grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and soy foods.
One thing I did learn is that, whether you are going vegan or not, vitamin D is very important to our health. Therefore, I started taking vitamin D supplements, which I highly recommend.
Vitamin D is needed for bone health and low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia and muscle weakness.
What is important on a vegan diet is which vitamin D you take.
• Vitamin D3 is derived from animals.
• Vitamin D2 is derived from yeast exposed to UV rays.
Omega-3 may be a concern when you don't eat fish, however it can be found in flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, a half a cup of cooked soybeans, and even in flaxseed. These foods are usually part of a vegan diet, so omega-3 should not be a concern.
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Going Vegan From Vegetarian
So, for me, going vegan is going to be pretty easy. I'm on my vitamin B12 and vitamin D2 supplement, and I plan to meet a more balanced diet with vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and soy foods.
Why am I waiting till January 1? One word - Christmas. However, if I had my way I probably would start being a vegan today. In fact, Christmas Day may be the only time that we eat any milk products.
If you have any tips for eating vegan or switching to a vegan diet please leave them in the comments below.
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Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen is a food blog focusing on using natural, whole foods to create healthy recipes so Sinlessly Delicious that you’ll never miss the fat!
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